Devices Linking Us to Our Inner World Are Next Tech Frontier
Greetings from Las Vegas, where I've landed in the midst of a perfect storm. I'm not talking about the weather -- it's a crisp, beautiful day here. No, I'm talking about one of those moments in which several trends converge to create something larger, a moment we will look back on as the time everything changed.
I'm in town for the annual Consumer Electronics Show, where 3,000 exhibitors from around the world will showcase some 20,000 new products. This year's CES has the potential to be one of the most transformative ever, and that's because of a significant change in attitude about what role technology can, and should, be playing in our lives. That's the foundation of this perfect storm, the main elements of which are new and disruptive technology, our dysfunctional health-care system and the growing desire people have to take control of their own health and well being.
Previewing this year's event, PCWorld said it expects "the march toward total connectivity to continue," pointing to devices that contribute to the "smart home" and offer the ability to control our surroundings -- from the way we watch TV to the way we raise the thermostat -- with gadgets that are connected to and communicate with each other.
But the perfect storm I'm talking about goes one step further: from the smartphone to the smart home to the smart person. For me, the most exciting emerging technologies aren't devices that allow us to communicate with and control our external world, but those that allow us to connect to our inner world, the ones that connect our mind, body and spirit. That's the real potential of total connectivity.
Why is this important? Because this perfect storm is powered by our growing awareness of the destructive power and cost -- in terms of both dollars and lives -- of stress. Stress wreaks havoc not just on our relationships, our careers and our happiness, but also on our health. On the collective level, the price we're paying is staggering -- stress costs American businesses an estimated $300 billion a year, according the World Health Organization. And over the last 30 years, self-reported stress levels have gone up 25 percent for men and 18 percent for women.
If we continue to define our health care system as only being about what happens after we're already sick -- if we don't address the root causes of much of what's making us sick -- we'll never be able to keep up with skyrocketing costs. The easier, healthier and cheaper way to treat stress is to deal with its causes instead of its effects. The good news is that we know how to effectively do this: practices like mindfulness, meditation, yoga and healthy sleep habits have proved extremely successful in combating stress.
Plus, new high-tech tools are making it possible for individuals to take more and more control of their own health. The first wave of connecting technology hyperconnected us to the entire world -- but, in the process, often disconnected us from ourselves. That's why I'm so excited about the new wave of technology that reconnects us to ourselves. For example, a robust market of wearable devices -- like the Nike Plus FuelBand, Jawbone UP, FitBit and Lark -- has emerged, monitoring everything from activity and food intake to weight and sleep.
This week, HuffPost is entering this connected-self market, rolling out at CES our GPS for the Soul, a new app that's part of our comprehensive site-wide lifestyle coverage centered around the theme "Less Stress, More Living." When I wrote about GPS for the Soul last year -- the "killer app for better living" -- I explained that it had started as a hope that one day someone would create an app that would gauge the state of your mind, body and spirit, then automatically offer the exact steps you would need to take to realign all three aspects of your being.
The GPS for the Soul app is designed to work in conjunction with the GPS for the Soul section on the Huffington Post, HuffPost's new stress-reduction daily email newsletter and GPS for the Soul online services provided by our partners, such as talktala and meQuilibrium. The app measures your heart rate and heart rate variability which, taken together, are a proxy for stress levels. The app then connects you to a personalized guide that offers music, poetry, breathing exercises and pictures of your loved ones that can help you re-center and de-stress. Or you can access the guides of stress-reduction experts, other users or your friends. Our GPS for the Soul sections will be a hub for great content by groups working in this field that will help our users not only increase their awareness of their stress and be able to course-correct, but also go deeper and identify the root causes.
So for me the most exciting takeaway from this year's CES isn't the smart car or the smart home, it's the smart person -- the reconnection of mind, body and spirit. It's the best way for each of us to regain control of our health, and for our country to regain control of our death-spiraling health care system.
So here's hoping the perfect storm on display this week at CES leads to sunnier days everywhere.
Arianna Huffington is president and editor-in-chief of Huffington Post Media Group. Her email address is email@example.com.(c) 2013 Arianna Huffington. Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.